Designing Pervasive Virtual Worlds

Designing Pervasive Virtual Worlds

Everardo Reyes-Garcia (University of Paris 13, France)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8205-4.ch010
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Virtual worlds can be approached in a broader sense of that which refers to common conceptions of virtual reality and immersive environments. This chapter explores the design of virtual worlds in a time when much contemporary media is accessed through and simulated by software. Today, the main extensions of man are cognitive skills and experiences. Software is a way of seeing the world; it plays a central role in media design and distribution. Software and perception of reality are intertwined and pervasive: media not only exist in form of software but the shape and properties of media are also designed with software. In order to understand the implications of computational media, it is necessary to re-articulate problems in a creative and virtual manner. At the end of the chapter, the author speculates on design approaches and presents some examples developed by him.
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Background: Pervasive Virtual Worlds

The classic definition of virtual worlds, also referred to as ‘artificial worlds’ or ‘virtual environments’, comes from research on computer virtual reality. The first innovations in this field started during the 1960s. Prominent examples of pioneering systems include the “Sensorama Simulator” by Morton Heiling in 1960, and the “Ultimate Display” by Ivan Sutherland in 1965. Short after, the first artistic virtual worlds were developed. David Em, while artist in residence at NASA, created “Aku” (1977), “Transjovian Pipeline” (1979) and “Persepol” (1985). From this tradition, a virtual reality system has been defined as

Key Terms in this Chapter

Analytical Maps: A material and graphical support that tries to make evident and easy to identify patterns and trends about a domain. It consists of digital processing of data and its rendering in visual form. It is a tool for research and study. It could assist researchers that work in digital humanities, speculative computing, aesthetic provocations, design by disruption, experimentation and media art. The projects and experiments in analytical maps, as well as other forms of graphical representations, might also serve as conceptual tools to think about the virtualization processes and archaeology.

Media Archaeology: A recent approach elaborated within media studies that investigates the several virtualizations of actions, organs, and things as well as their implementation through technological means throughout historical periods. It assumes that there are actions that have already been virtualized and that those virtualizations have been translated into technical objects and then, more recently, to computing forms. It asks, among other questions: where do our tools come from? How are they related to past new media? What was at stake at the origin of the invention? How the invention altered other technologies? How media virtualize us and virtualize things?

User-Interface Convention: Generally referred as those graphical elements that have been embraced and acknowledged because they facilitate using a computer and software by a common person. Broadly speaking, UI conventions can be elements from the WIMP paradigm: windows, icons, mouse, pointers. But they is also related to visual and language metaphors, where the software applications reside: operating systems, middleware, etc. The most famous metaphor related to the computing medium remains the desktop, but others can emerge in a time when portable devices, ambient intelligence and different kind of artisanal and experimental software develop.

Virtual World: In its traditional meaning, informed by the computer sciences, it can also be referred to as ‘artificial worlds’ or ‘virtual environments’. From a different perspective, that is, from a philosophical one, a virtual world is approached as a state of being. Following the work by Pierre Lévy, Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson, there are four states of being: the real, the possible, the actual and the virtual. The virtual and the possible are latent, while the real and the actual are manifest. The main difference between the virtual and the possible is that the virtual questions a creative solution to a problem: it tries to problematize it again, while the possible only executes and repeats already existing solutions.

Virtualization: The passage from the actual state of being to the virtual. The actual is a manifest state that tries to solve a problem in a creative manner, but when this creative solution is questioned again it is re-articulated and virtualized. It is a process of dematerialization but at the same time of thinking, inspiring, reasoning, and connecting different (and often non-obvious) actors.

Pervasive Virtual Worlds: A vision of the world from a creative and innovative standpoint, mainly for design and communication. It considers the emerging environment that combines analog and electronic media as the ground and sandbox to experiment with new forms of design and communication. It is an attempt to describe the analogical and electronic world that is mixed, extended and mediated through media. A pervasive virtual world is complex. It recalls the importance of taking into account concrete and simple forms, but also of abstract and complex ones, produced by the interaction of heterogeneous actors: individuals, things, objects, machines; these forms can be physical but immaterial as well. Furthermore, recalling the idea of the world as larger than human perception and understanding, some forms can even be unknown for some actors of the world.

Computing Medium: Also related to the notion of ‘software as medium’. It describes the computer as a media machine, that is, an virtualizing tool for creating media content, but also as a tool to create media software (software to create other media). The complexity of the computing medium relies in its combination of conventions from past new media with properties exclusive of digital treatment of signals and information. In that manner, not only the established conventions are now accessed and manipulated through graphical user interfaces, but also those conventions are informed by techniques from other domains and create new forms for designing media.

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